A/N: Sorry it took so long to get up, considering it was already written! I had to type it up – yeah, I'm a pen-and-paper writer. Yes, I know I diverted a bit from Dameon's general all-loving character with the anti-Rushton angst back in 'Prelude', but I'm far from a Rushton supporter myself (had you noticed that? Oh, good. I would have been worried, otherwise). I'm afraid I am going to introduce a slightly Dameon-hurting aspect here too. You're warned now. Enjoy!
'...I had screamed in fear, but all at once an Agyllian bird flew beneath me. I clutched convulsively at the warm feathers and thin bones.
I had thought the bird was Atthis, except the Eldar was blind and too small to bear me. This bird was pure white, rather than red and enormous like the Agyllians.
"Things bear their spirit shapes on the dreamtrails," a voice had whispered, but so faintly I could not tell whose it was. The bird bore me silently ever up and out, through a swirling rainbow of colour and light that ended only when I awoke...'
Ashling, chapter 21
Once again, I descended through my mind, eventually reaching the dreamtrails. I wasn't sure how she would feel, if she knew that I watched her on the dreamtrails. I did not watch her every time she wandered the dreamtrails – it shocked me how frequently she was on them, amazed me that she was not in a constant state of exhaustion – but I normally watched her at least once every two sevendays. In the weeks where I was at my lowest, I would watch nearly every time she was there. It was the only way I could see her – my lifeline.
My large, white wings stretched out either side of me, and I flapped them nonchalantly, the single movement pushing gusts of air down and propelling me several metres through the air. I glided gently over the fields below me, searching for her mind pattern.
There she was, my beautiful Elf. Maruman was nearby, keeping close enough to know if she was in true danger, but no more. I longed to go down to her, reveal my presence, speak to her and look her in the eye; but my shyness held me back, afraid of her reaction.
I watched as she leaned over, examining the ground. Although I was curious as to what she was doing, I kept my distance. If I were to give in to every temptation to approach, she would inevitably become aware of my close proximity; and I was too shy to let that happen, as badly as I did want to walk with her, speak to her.
Only once had I approached her on the dreamtrails; allowed her to be aware of me. She had been experiencing a sort of nightmare, and found herself hurtling through the air – quite clearly not well practised in the art of shapeshifting on the dreamtrails. Her scream called me impulsively, almost involuntarily, towards her, and I had swept under her, flying her up and up until she returned to normal sleep...
Suddenly, a wave of terror swept over me, picked up by my empathic talent. I swooped further downwards, determined to discover the reason for her distress, and stop it, if I could. I knew that Maruman would come if the danger was real, but if it was a terror of her own invention, he would leave her to deal with it alone.
Flying down so low, I saw nothing to alarm. She stood on a bare patch of barren earth, devoid of any growth, but with small, black lumps poking through the earth. What was it that caused her this fear? For some reason she drew back from the lumps, as though they would be poisonous to the touch...
And then I understood. Ander flowed through me, my own for once, and I cursed the Herders and their orphanages, for leaving her with this fear, to the extent that she still had nightmares about the poisonous whitestick.
Sweeping into a steep dive, I caught her up gently in the long claws on my feet, flying her up, up, until the scene was left far behind us. Carefully, I deposited her on a patch of soft, springy grass, landing with a soft thump next to her.
I leaned over her to check she was okay, my heart beating fast, with our closeness and my continued rage at the herders. Poor Elspeth... I wanted nothing more than to hold her close. But again, fear of rejection held me back. Her head lifted, and she looked up, straight at me. I registered surprise, and, amazingly, relief emanating from her. I made to take off to leave her in peace.
"No!" she cried. I paused, shocked by her reaction. "Please... don't go. Tell me – who are you?"
So this was what she wanted. To know who I was. Could I let her know? Did I have the courage to reveal myself, make everything known? And if I refused now, would I even be spared the explanation? Would she mention me in my dreamtrail form when we were together in the conscious world – where I would be unable to hide my reaction. Could she guess, from that? If I refused now and she realised later... what would she think of me?
"Please? I-I know you've saved me before. I remember you..."
There was no way for me to refuse. I took a deep breath, and shut my eyes. By allowing thoughts of my human form to run through my head, I could feel my body change shape, merging, splitting, shifting. I heard a gasp escape her – I was far from her thoughts as her mysterious rescuer – but kept my eyes squeezed tightly shut.
In all my imaginings of this moment, one thing I had been sure of. This time I would not be like all the times in the conscious world. I would give myself sight as I only could on the dreamtrails, where my body obeyed my will.
I did not know how she would take this.
Taking in another deep breath, I opened my eyes. I saw her own, vivid green eyes widen as she saw my bright blue ones. Her eyes... I stared into them for several moments, before I managed to bring my mind back into focus.
"Dameon?" Her voice was both stunned and incredulous, yet curiously thrilled.
A weak smile crossed my face. "The one and only," I said, holding out a hand. The meadow we were in was truly glorious, and perhaps if we went for a walk she would stop staring at me so discomfortingly.
"Your... your... eyes, you can... you can see, here?" she blurted out, gracelessly. Then she did something that surprised me; she blushed.
"Yes, I can." I wondered if she heard the unusually warmth in my voice – I had been unable to control myself enough to keep it out. She had already taken my offered hand, so I started to walk, our arms limp between us.
There was silence for a few long minutes as we strolled along. She said nothing, only kept looking at me, staring openly at my face.
Finally, I could stand it no more. Stopping abruptly, I turned to face her, my eyes boring into hers. I opened my mouth to speak, to apologise...
The corners of her mouth twitched upwards, before breaking into what I knew to be a very rare, genuine smile. She even giggled – well, she started to, reigning herself in and letting the smile soften and fade, in the way she always did whenever she was in danger of what she seemed to see as the ultimate sine – being happy.
"Please don't do that." My soft request made her raise her eyebrows, startled and wondering.
Gently, I touched the tip of my finger to the corner of her mouth. The first time I had seen her on the dreamtrails – some time after I had decided I had fallen in love with her – I had realised she was very beautiful. Now, up close, her beauty was almost dazzling. I knew she could well tweak her appearance here, but somehow I was sure that she didn't. For me, touching her like this was almost like touching a goddess – yet one who was also vulnerable.
"Every time you begin to feel happy... you stop it. Can't you just let yourself relax for a while? What is it? Do you not feel like you deserve to be happy?" It had all come out in a rush, exactly how I thought it. I hesitated though, unsure, again, how she would feel about the last part. "Because you do deserve it," I added, quietly.
Those beautiful, wide eyes seemed to take this in for a minute, before she relaxed. "If you say so." And then she let her mouth curl back into a lovely, soft smile, and my heart sang.
I smiled back at her. "Now you have to tell me what you're smiling about."
I regretted the words instantly, as the smile vanished again. She bit her lower lip, the action filled with trepidation. I grunted in frustration. Her smile returned, wryly, like she was ashamed of making me unhappy.
"I was... just... just noticing your freckles, is all."
"Huh?" She had lost me.
"Your... freckles." A blush, before she blurted out, "You always get them in summer. They're... really cute." The blush had deepened.
I felt like I was fifteen. My heart was soaring, at the smallest thing. Like it had back when we were teenagers, plotting escape in our lunch breaks with Matthew; when such a little thing as her liking an idea of mine or laughing at my joke could lift my mood for an entire day.
Actually, I probably looked fifteen. I had been a child when I lost my sight, and had found that when I thought about my sight on the dreamtrails, it also tended to give me a youthful appearance. A spurt of curiosity led me to wonder if that was why she had used such unusual phrasing. Did I remind her of that "cute" fifteen year old right now?
Could she see how happy I was right now? Was the joy I felt reflected in my shining eyes? Normally she didn't see these things – but 'normally' she didn't smile, or talk about my freckles being 'cute', either. Now she was breaking all the rules; did she know, then, that I was about to explode with pleasure?
Her face cracked into a sudden grin; from what I understand, this was completely unknown for her. I had to ask.
"What is it?"
"You. You have no idea how good it is to see you this happy." Ah, it must be showing. "Sometimes... sometimes you're not like this at all. You can be so dark, and moody... I-I worry that you can't be like this again." I was still happy, yes, but the smile had dropped from my features.
"Oh. You... noticed." So hard I had tried to keep her from my dark moods, when all I wanted was for her to hug me, tell me I was worth something, even though I felt entirely worthless, and still I had failed. She had seen the black, dark emptiness sin me. And what would she think? Did she think it weak, pathetic of me?
Maybe the worried hollowness had shown in my eyes, because she had continued without prodding. Good. I was no longer capable of providing it.
"All those times, Dameon... I was so, so worried. I just wanted to stop it... to reach out and help you, make it go away. But I was afraid... would you even want me to?" Her smile was gone, her eyes showing her anxiety and concern.
There was a name for the black pit I often fell into; depression. I had always known that. But right now, I banished it, regardless of its size and strength. It would be back, later, I knew that – but I would not let it ruin this moment right now, and her hand in mine, squeezing it so tightly, gave me the strength to let go of the pit.
I smiled at her again, a deep, true smile; and she seemed to understand, because she smiled back, a perfect reflection of me. And we walked through the field together, hand in hand, fears banished for the one night.
A/N: I hope you liked it, reviews would be great. Thanks to xt-291 for the review that motivated me to type like mad. :D I'm hoping to write more, but when it'll be up, I have no idea. That's why story alerts are great!